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How do I know if my household cleansers are safe?


Safety Concerns with Household Cleaners
Store your cleansers all together and out of reach of your children and pets.
Store your cleansers all together and out of reach of your children and pets.
Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

There are a number of important things to consider when evaluating household cleanser safety. Most importantly is your family's safety. If you're doing the cleaning, you're probably the one with the greatest risk of dangerous exposure. This is true of cleaners that are completely legal and effective for their intended use. If you use lots of cleaning products and clean often, your exposure is greater than it would be if you cleaned less often. No one is advocating that you maintain a dirty home in order to be safer, but recognizing that the nature of cleaning solvents is to kill germs and thwart what are sometimes natural processes means accepting that there may be some potential risk involved when you use them.

If you haven't checked the directions and cautions on your household cleansers' product labels recently, you may want to do that before you use them again. A cleanser may be safe if used within the narrow guidelines spelled out on the label, but unsafe when used in higher concentrations, or without proper protection or cleanup afterward. There may also be problems when different cleansers are used together. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia releases a toxic gas where using either alone is relatively safe.

You may want to evaluate the environmental safety of your cleaning products, too. That caustic oven cleaner might be a whiz at removing baked on grease, but a poor choice for your local aquatic eco-system. More and more, we're realizing that what we dispose of, either down the drain or in local landfills, doesn't really go away. If you want the natural world to be vigorous for your children's children, adopting a more eco-friendly approach by expanding your personal definition of cleanser safety is a good first step.


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